Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fall Garden Update

Fall solstice isn't a bad time to check in on how the garden grows. The carrots and pole beans are gone, but the tomatoes and peppers are in full swing.

I planted 12 tomatoes this year in 6 different varieties.  My Juliets and Cherokee Purple did the best, but that's because they're in the bed to the far right.  Clearly, I've got strange nutrient problems going on in my garden.  You can see the difference between the tomatoes growing in the three beds.  The left are thriving and outgrowing their 7' stakes.  The ones in the middle, not quite so much.  The ones to the right are downright pathetic.  So, despite my efforts to "throw everything at" my soil, like leaves and steer manure and purchased compost, I've got nutrient deficiencies I'm going to have to deal with come spring and hopefully revive my beds.

Nothing in this bed to the far right is performing like it should.  The plants are showing signs of nitrogen deficiency, and my effort at weekly doses of fish emulsion haven't helped.  I am going to have to bring in a good veggie mix from Wheeler Zamaroni to get this one back performing again.

Aside from that, my other beds are doing pretty darned good.  I'll have these cucumbers producing through Halloween if the weather holds up.  And this year, I didn't get one bitter one to speak of.  The new brand I bought, Corinto, from Johnny's Seeds was way better than what I had last year.  It's a good variety if you're looking for a plain old cucumber.

Despite getting attacked badly by birds in the spring, these bell peppers have been producing great.  I grew standard Ace bells, then a sweet smaller pepper called Lipstick.  Love them both, so much so that they'll be a staple in all future gardens.  They don't come out as large as what you find in the store, but the flavor is much more intense.  (And nice to eat a bell pepper that didn't come coated in that waxy crap).

What you can barely see here is my attempt at a fall planting of carrots.  I lost a number of seedlings because I don't think my water was getting to all of them.  I also find fall is a harder time to get carrots than spring.  I try anyway, because it always seems like a waste to leave a space empty when the weather is still warm.

I didn't plant broccoli seeds early enough to start my own, but I did find some starts at Friedman's.  I've just got 4 plants, which will be enough for a quick fall harvest--if I can keep the bugs off them.  The downside of fall plantings are the bugs are in full swing, much more so than in the late winter when everything's too chilly.

And in my "sick" bed, I am still managing to get some butternut squash.  They're small, which is actually perfect, since I'm the only one in the house that will eat it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My "Other" Home Office

A new friend asked me to share pictures of my workshop.  Giddy me, ran out with my camera because you all know how much I love photographing my world, LOL.

The workshop, tucked among the jungle that is my August veggie garden.

This canopy is new--another $80 purchase I probably shouldn't have made.  But I love it!  I've now got a shady outdoor space where I can work on those 100 degree days when the shop is too hot.  It's also a great space to do the concrete and grouting, which can be messy.

The employee break room.

I keep my tiles in these recycled Louis Rich Deli Turkey containers.  Here in earthquake country, keeping my tiles in glass jars isn't an option, though I think if the big one hits I'll still end up with a giant mess on my hands.

The back wall.

The work bench that started it all.

Sadly, I did have to devote one wall to gardening equipment.

The view from my workbench.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Garden Update

I'm trying to figure out what the problem is with this bed. It's strange to me that I can build three beds in a row, from the same ground, using the same materials. They get the same sunlight and exposure, same amendments, and I've rotated my crops around equally. Yet this one most definitely has nutrient deficiencies.

The squash and tomatoes are both showing signs of nitrogen and mineral deficiency.  And though my zucchini appears fine, it's not producing as much fruit as it should be.

I've been blasting this bed with weekly douses of fish emulsion and it seems to be helping.  Hope I can salvage what's growing here this year.

Everywhere else, I've got lively productive plants.  Tomatoes are in abundance, and I've got the first few turning red.  Moskvich and Juliets are the first to ripen.

Lots of cucumbers on their way.  Looking forward to that as I'm eating lots of salads and still buying them from the store.

I've discovered it is possible to overplant nasturtium.  I have literally been pulling this stuff out because it's gotten huge and is taking over everything near it.  This patch is the only one I"m now letting go.

Carrots are getting close to harvest time. I'll be planting more where I pulled out late spring broccoli later in August.

Pole beans are doing their usual climb to infinity.  Even though they've got a taller trellis this year, they're still outgrowing it.  I'm just now getting flowers and hope to have beans soon.  I was harvesting last year at this time.  It seems everything in the garden except for tomatoes is running a little later than last year.

Looks like I'm going to have plenty of peppers this year, hopefully.  My pepper plants got decimated by birds early on.  So much so that I had to go out and buy pepper plants to replace some of the ones lost.

If I ever needed a reminder to keep growing my own plants, this would be it.  Here are the pepper plants I purchased from Home Depot.  They aren't dead, but they certainly aren't as vibrant as the plants I grow on my own.

These are the pepper plants that survived the bird attack.  Even though they have been stunted from the pinching off of branches, they are much more healthy and vibrant than the store bought.  Looks like I won't be abandoning my practice of seed starting any time soon.

Monday, July 2, 2012

4th of July Tomato Update

Wow, a check of this blog last year shows my tomatoes are about half the size they were last year at this time. Granted, I started the seeds about 2 weeks later this year than last. Also, though I had big plants last year, by this time, I didn't have much in the way of actual tomatoes. This year is the opposite. Smaller plants, but plenty of fruit starting on them.

Biggest disappointment is this Prudens Purple. These are supposed to be early tomatoes. I don't know if it's the bed they're in or the plants themselves, but they're spindly and don't have a solitary tomato on them.

These Brandywine are in the same bed in a spot where I'd planted pole beans last year.  The plants are much healthier and I've got one tomato growing on them.  But they still are a bit behind the plants in the other beds.

My lone Brandywine tomato.

These Moskvich are another early variety.  Again, they were twice the size last year, but these are fruiting...a lot.

Lots of tomatoes on these two.

Big Beef is another tomato that I have good luck with here.  These plants are fairly spindly, but there are a ton of tomatoes on them.

Some Big Beefs.

More Big Beefs.

Healthiest looking plants are these planted closest to my shed.  These Juliets are doing really well.

Lots of fruit on them.

And lastly, I've got these Cherokee Purple which are new to me this year.  They're supposed to be another early variety.  The plants are probably my biggest and fullest.

However, I've only got this one lone tomato on them so far.

I'll be curious to see what another 4 weeks will do.  I know from last year, they can double in size pretty quickly.

Garden Wall is Done!

And it's such a nicer place to sit outside and enjoy the weather. Before, the view off our patio was just this lifeless pile of dirt:

Now, we've got a nice shade garden and space to display my garden art:


Because we did it ourselves, total cost for the project was about $500. That includes the stones, dirt and plants. Not bad.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How I Stake My Tomatoes

I'm still trying to figure out how tomato cages thrive on the market.  For me, the problem with them is simple math:  You can't use a 3' cage to support a 7' plant.  In fact, every other tomato support I've seen on the market looks just as rickety, and ALL are grossly overpriced.

So in the hope of saving you all some serious dough, I'll share my method which has worked great over the last several years.  It's referred to as the Florida Weave.

In my garden, I start with 8' t-posts that I picked up at Tractor Supply for about $6 each.  Once you drive them into the ground, they end up about 6 1/2' high, which is good for tomatoes and other climbers like pole beans (another veggie that will quickly outgrow a shorter trellis).  And unlike those spindly wood stakes, or even good 2x2 stakes I'd made out of redwood a couple years back, these metal t-posts should last decades.  I also LOVE the notches in them, which is ideal for the next step in the process.

This link provides a good description of what a Florda Weave is.  Here's how it looks in my garden.  I space my stakes 4' apart which allows me to put two tomato plants between them.  Then as the tomatoes grow, I weave twine around the stakes creating a cage of sorts.

The twine wraps on both sides of the tomato.  The idea is to keep the plant between the strings, tucking the branches over them as they grow.

No matter how big your tomatoes get, this method is surprisingly strong.  Granted, I'm one of those gardeners who trims the suckers off her plants.  I don't let them go wild, as they end up taking too much space.  But usually half way through the year, I say to hell with it, let them grow rampant, and this twine will hold them up well, provided the stakes are driven securely in the ground.

You'll also see in these photos that I've laid down paper mulch around the base of the plants.  That's to prevent "splash up" of dirt onto the tomato plant.  Soil borne fungus can bring black spot and blight, which I had a small problem with last year.  So I'm taking more protective measures this year to keep any dirt off my plants.

So there you have it.  The "perfect" way to stake and tend to growing tomatoes, in my humble opinion.

Flower Power

This flower, which I started a year ago and only now finished, turned out so sweet, I'm going flower crazy.

This one is large, 16" across.  I'm in the process of making smaller ones in various sizes.  I'm also perfecting the design, getting away from having the rebar stake permanently embedded in the flower.  That makes it hard to make and mount.  The new system will have a detachable pole.  So much easier already.

This is fun.  I'm going nutso with these things and will post pictures when I have some done.  I may turn this into a business, selling them either through local shops or farmer's markets.